Most of the questions I get are the same ones, sent in by different people. I enjoy chatting with my readers, who for the most part are polite, supportive, interested, and respectful. However, when you write this web page singlehandedly, have a day job, a full-time family, and other pots in the fire, it's often hard to keep up with the correspondence.
Consequently, I'm offering a page of "Frequently Asked Questions," to help folks out, and some of the more bizarre questions I've been asked, to provide some entertainment.
Click On Question For Response
- I am looking to find out about a relative of mine who served in World War II. Can you help me locate him?
- I am looking for the burial site of a relative who died in World War II.
- Why doesn't this series cover the entire war?
- Why does this series start in 1941 when the war began in 1939?
- What makes you qualified to write about World War II?
- May I use your entries on my web page?
- May I reprint your material in my web discussion group?
- I have to write a paper about World War II, what can you tell me about it?
- I have picked a tight and focused subject about World War II. What can you tell me about it?
- Can you write my essay for me?
- I'll pay you to write my essay!
- Can you recommend any other web sites on World War II?
- Can I set up a link to your web page and you link to mine?
- Can you tell me your experiences in World War II?
- I see your page is connected to the actual heroes of the book and TV series "Band of Brothers," can you help me get in touch with them?
- When are you going to add more segments to the series?
- I spotted some errors on your web page, and I have the corrections at hand.
- I would like to write some segments for your page.
- I would like to edit your page for accuracy.
- Why isn't this published as a book?
- Aren't you just doing this to see how many "hits" you can get on your page?
- Do you get any financial support for this project?
- Why haven't you written anything about my favorite nation or unit?
- I found a number of mistakes on your page, how could call yourself a serious historian when you have made those errors?
- Why isn't there more artwork on the page?
- May I use your entries and material in my term paper?
- Why haven't you footnoted your work?
- Why don't you credit your sources?
- Are you going to do this project for any other wars?
- Can you tell me anything about the Vietnam War?
- Why do you have so much about New Zealand on the page?
- Why do you rely on official histories, not revisionist ones?
- Why don't you use histories by David Irving, whose works are considered extremely important?
- What do you think of the Holocaust?
- Do you think President Franklin D. Roosevelt engineered the attack on Pearl Harbor to drag America into the war, and that the officers in command there were made scapegoats?
- Do you think the Holocaust really happened and in the great numbers it is reported to have had?
- Who do you like better, Montgomery or Patton?
- I am trying to locate pictures of artillery units in past wars for a military project. Would you have any?
- Hey, I'm an 8th grade student looking to do a research paper on World War II. It will be helpful if you can answer the following questions. . . . . . .
- Finally, I am including two of my all-time favorite questions from my…uh, fans. The names are eliminated to protect the innocent.
- And my other favorite letter-to-the-editor:
|1||-||I am looking to find out about a relative of mine who served in World War II. Can you help me locate him?
Probably not, mostly because millions of people served in World War II. Your best move would be to contact the Armed Forces or National Archives of your home nation. The United States keeps its military personnel records at the National Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Unfortunately, vast quantities of records were destroyed in a disastrous 1973 fire. Deck logs and war diaries are kept at the National Archives. Britons should try the Public Records Office in Kew, Canadians the Department of Veterans Affairs in Ottawa, and Australians the National War Memorial in Canberra, which has recently placed divisional diaries on the web. All have web sites. Make sure you have your relative's Social Security or Serial Numbers handy. They only give out information to relatives, under the various Privacy Acts. Other good sources are the reunion groups connected with your relative's unit, command, or ship. They often have records or unit histories, which often refer specifically to such individuals.
|2||-||I am looking for the burial site of a relative who died in World War II.
The British Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the US Battle Monuments Commission both maintain web pages, and will provide the location of graves upon request, and information about the buried or honored person. You will find these graves are maintained immaculately. Please bear in mind that vast numbers of World War II dead were not identified or their bodies not recovered, and their names are simply listed on memorials.
|3||-||Why doesn't this series cover the entire war?
I started this as a link to the 55th anniversary of the war, which has come and gone. So I began with the 55th anniversary of October 1941, which was October 1995. As I write the series myself, in my limited free time, it was impossible to keep up with the 55th anniversary. It is very much a work-in-progress. Readers should study my essay on how this series came to be to get a better sense of the conditions under which it is produced.
|4||-||Why does this series start in 1941 when the war began in 1939?
That is a common complaint, rooted in the series' origins. As you see, I have gone back to 1939 to start over, correct many errors, and improve the narrative flow.
|5||-||What makes you qualified to write about World War II?
I have a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and History, a Master's Degree in Creative Writing, and have written articles on World War II history for 20 years, researching the subject on four continents.
|6||-||May I use your entries on my web page?
No, because then people wouldn't bother to come to mine. You can use small segments on your page, only with my express written consent, and you must include my web address and direct any and all questions on the work to me, as the author.
|7||-||May I reprint your material in my web discussion group?
The last time someone did that, without my permission, I was roundly attacked, ridiculed, and humiliated in public in a variety of extremely nasty assaults. Apparently I am expected to let anyone who wants reprint my stuff without asking permission. Consequently, I have had my webmasters prevent any copying and pasting. You can refer to my work and post the links, but I have had enough of people cutting-and-pasting something I've spent years to write, and then taking bows and compliments for posting it. I think would-be publishers and literary agents should do writers the ordinary courtesy of contacting the author first.
|8||-||I have to write a paper about World War II, what can you tell me about it?
I suggest you find a certain aspect of the war that interests you, and write your paper on that. World War II is a huge subject and no schoolteacher or college professor is looking for a vast essay, when they have to read the essays of 50 other kids in your classes. They want to see that you have done some research, understand the topic, have parroted back the school's syllabus or their pet theory, and followed the rules of academic scholarship, which mean providing bibliography and footnotes, and without committing plagiarism. I advise you to find a tight and focused subject, and then contact me again.
|9||-||I have picked a tight and focused subject about World War II. What can you tell me about it?
That depends on your subject. I would initially suggest that you read relevant pages on my web page, and then consult my bibliography for additional reading. You should use multiple sources, and check them against each other. Many books and web sites perpetuate myths or make blatant errors of fact or scholarship. There are also web sites run by people with penknives to grind, like neo-Nazis, which distort history. If possible, I will answer your specific questions and point you in the right direction. In the end, this is your essay, and you have to write it.
|10||-||Can you write my essay for me?
I can think of a dozen rude and snotty replies to this, but I won't give them. However, the answer is "absolutely not."
|11||-||I'll pay you to write my essay!
What was the name of your school and principal again? I want to report a case of academic fraud and attempted bribery.
|12||-||Can you recommend any other web sites on World War II?
I have numerous excellent links on the USS Washington web page. Bear in mind that web pages are often ephemeral, surviving at the whimsy of their webmasters and their computer technicians.
|13||-||Can I set up a link to your web page and you link to mine?
Just contact my webmasters. They'll review it and take care of it, if it's an appropriate link. I will not link to racist, pornographic, or political web sites, and I take a jaundiced view of commercial ones. We can provide you with banners
|14||-||Can you tell me your experiences in World War II?
Sadly, I can't, mostly because I was born in 1962. The war ended in 1945. I suggest you contact a veterans' organization or hospital in your area. You will find numerous veterans eager to recall their experiences
|15||-||I see your page is connected to the actual heroes of the book and TV series "Band of Brothers," can you help me get in touch with them?
You can forward me the e-mail, but please bear in mind that these folks are in their 80s, and are drenched with letters, e-mails, and phone calls. The Easy Company vets are heroic but fairly ordinary Americans, eager to please but overwhelmed by the adulation. They have often pointed out that they are microcosms of the war effort, and recommend that people interested in making contact with actual World War II veterans should locate the veterans in their own communities, who have their own equally riveting stories.
|16||-||When are you going to add more segments to the series?
I'm working on that constantly. It's a matter of time and research. I have a full-time job, a full-time family, and free-lance writing assignments. All of them consume a lot of time.
|17||-||I spotted some errors on your web page, and I have the corrections at hand.
Forward me the information and I'll make those corrections where possible and relevant.
|18||-||I would like to write some segments for your page.
Forward me your material and I'll review it. In all likelihood, your material will be used as research for something I write later.
|19||-||I would like to edit your page for accuracy.
Be my guest. I don't have any copy-editors or researchers.
|20||-||Why isn't this published as a book?
Because publishing houses are more interested in analyses of Nostradamus, the novels of Britney Spears and Ivana Trump, and the memoirs of celebrities who have gone through drug rehab, to spend money on me. Our society is riveted to the life and times of Paris Hilton.
|21||-||Aren't you just doing this to see how many "hits" you can get on your page?
If I was doing that, I'd create a web page of pictures of naked women, not World War II history.
|22||-||Do you get any financial support for this project?
Not a penny. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.
|23||-||Why haven't you written anything about my favorite nation or unit? Maybe because I can't cover everything. As Jack Hawkins tartly observed in Bridge on the River Kwai, "There is always one more thing." More than 46 million people died in World War II. I can't list them all.|
|24||-||I found a number of mistakes on your page, how could call yourself a serious historian when you have made those errors?
Maybe because I did the entire work by myself, without any copy-editors, research assistants, teaching assistants, or interns, and the last I looked, I was a fallible human being.
|25||-||Why isn't there more artwork on the page?
I'm reluctant to violate copyrights.
|26||-||May I use your entries and material in my term paper?
That is plagiarism, which I detest. You can use me as a research source for YOUR writing. Again, you must include my website in the bibliography and footnotes.
|27||-||Why haven't you footnoted your work?
I started this as a way to entertain my command in New Zealand on a weekly basis, so I didn't want to waste my time and theirs with extensive footnotes. I had a bellyful of them in school and college, doing term papers by typewriter, when footnoting copy was a very difficult exercise. Teachers graded my paper on how many footnotes and how much bibliography it had, which I felt was ridiculous. So I don't use them now.
|28||-||Why don't you credit your sources?
Again, I began this as a way to entertain a small Navy unit. I am now creating an extensive bibliography with attached essays on my sources, for further reading. I had a bellyful of those academic restrictions, too. It amused me that teachers were more concerned about my margin size than my conclusions. I am endeavoring to do so through my bibliography.
|29||-||Are you going to do this project for any other wars?
Absolutely not. World War II is hard enough.
|30||-||Can you tell me anything about the Vietnam War?
I'm afraid not. However, there is vast scholarship on the subject now.
|31||-||Why do you have so much about New Zealand on the page?
I lived there for three years, love the country, love the people, met a lot of New Zealand World War 2 vets, including the last Victoria Cross recipient, and was fascinated by the nation's story. It was interesting how this small and distant nation responded so valiantly to the war.
|32||-||Why do you rely on official histories, not revisionist ones?
I rely on the official histories to tell me what the leaders were thinking or what they wanted to think, as well as a sense of what happened, who did the happening, and the numbers involved. I rely on my own mind for value and moral judgments. I dislike revisionist histories because they invariably have penknives to grind, and are more interested in assailing modern issues than addressing historical ones.
|33||-||Why don't you use histories by David Irving, whose works are considered extremely important?
As his libel trial in London in 2000 has shown, Mr. Irving seriously distorts history to fit his own views, which seem to be to rehabilitate Hitler. I have no time for such nonsense-on-stilts.
|34||-||What do you think of the Holocaust?
The Holocaust is often studied separately from World War II, which I think is a mistake. They were not separate in any way, although many people tried to separate them, at the time and after the fact. They have to be studied together.
|35||-||Do you think President Franklin D. Roosevelt engineered the attack on Pearl Harbor to drag America into the war, and that the officers in command there were made scapegoats?
I think Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to bring America into the war against Hitler, as he rightly feared the Nazi onslaught. But I do not believe that he deliberately manipulated the situation in the Pacific to sacrifice the American fleet and its sailors. I believe that he and his senior staff, all the way down the chain of commands, made errors in judgment and deed as well as under-estimations of Japanese capabilities and intentions. I do believe that the commanders in Hawaii, Walter Short and Husband E. Kimmel, were treated more harshly than necessary. They had to be relieved, but they did not deserve to go into ignominy. I see a lot of parallels between America in 1941 before Pearl Harbor and America in 2001 before September 11th.
|36||-||Do you think the Holocaust really happened and in the great numbers it is reported to have had?
I think the Holocaust not only happened, the huge numbers are an under-estimate. As for Hitler's role in it, he undoubtedly gave verbal orders on the subject to Himmler and Heydrich. Many of his major orders were verbal, and not in writing. In addition, much of Hitler's paper was burned on his orders and Bormann's in the bunker in April 1945.
|37||-||Who do you like better, Montgomery or Patton?
They were different generals who did different things, and did them very well. Patton had a great ability for mobility and a disdain for logistics. Montgomery crafted his set-piece battles as art and bullied subordinates and colleagues. Each had their strengths and weaknesses. Their rivalry existed mostly in Patton's mind and that of post-war screenwriters. Ironically, they worked well together, and I believe that Patton would probably have enjoyed great success had he served more closely with Montgomery. I also think that the entire Monty-Patton debate is trivial, compared with the vast suffering and sacrifice in the war.
|38||-||I am trying to locate pictures of artillery units in past wars for a military project. Would you have any?
Sorry, I'm afraid I don't have any photographs on hand.
|39||-||Hey, I'm an 8th grade student looking to do a research paper on World War II. It will be helpful if you can answer the following questions, or you can write whatever you want. You don't have to answer any question(s) you don't want to.
Personal Questions (You don't have to answer)
Answer: I can't believe an eighth-grade teacher would hit a student with 10 questions that would require a Master's Thesis to answer them. I'll tackle two of them. If your teacher is insistent on me answering all 10, please get me in touch with this teacher, so we can have a talk about realistic assignments for eighth-graders. If the questions are your idea, please narrow the focus or ask fewer questions at a single time. This is not because I don't want to answer your questions. It is because of the time it takes to prepare a carefully constructed and comprehensive answer.
|40||-||Finally, I am including two of my all-time favorite questions from my…uh, fans. The names are eliminated to protect the innocent.
There were a couple of years before this (1941) when Americans were weaseling out and a few thousand French, British, Polish, Canadians, etc. were bleeding and dying in the war against Fascism. Do you really label this a "history" site?
Dear Sir or Madam:
Thank you for your interest in my web page, and your comments.
I am often chided by my many readers for this site's failure to include the years from 1939 to 1941, to the point where I sometimes feel it is necessary to include a Frequently Asked Questions page to answer this question. As my site is undergoing a major expansion in the next two months, I will be able to include that question.
However, since you have asked it, I'll answer it again.
This entire project started from very humble beginnings, as an attempt to entertain about 50 to 100 US Navy and New Zealand military personnel and their civilian colleagues and dependents in connection with the 55th anniversary of the war, in a weekly e-mailing to the US Naval Antarctic Support Unit command. I began it in October of 1995, the 55th anniversary of 1941, and tied the events to that year. However, over the years, the project has expanded like a fungus to its present massive size. First, I mentioned these weekly e-mails to the webmaster of its present site, Howard Wright, who offered to reprint them. The next thing I knew, I had a worldwide audience begging me for more entries in the series, long after the 55th anniversary had come and gone.
This presented me with a choice, of whether or not to go forward to V-E and V-J Day or back to September 1, 1939. I decided that since I had been writing in a forward direction, to continue to go forward., end the war, then go back and pick it up from the beginning, cleaning up my errors (and there are plenty) and expanding a number of entries.
I should also point out that the construction of this web page has been accomplished on my own time, by my own hand, with my own efforts. Every single word has been written by me. I have researched every entry. I have done so without the slightest support, financial or material, or the slightest remuneration. I have no army of teaching assistants, no college library, no grant money. I do have a full-time job writing speeches for the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and a full-time family, so I have to squeeze out time when I can and pay for research materials.
That should give you some idea of the methodology behind this project. I would point out that it was hardly a "few thousand" Britons, Canadians, Poles, and Frenchmen who died between 1939 and 1941. The Nazis cold-bloodedly butchered 3 million Poles and 5 million of Poland's Jewish population during the war, and averages out to just over 1 million per year. You have also left out the Norwegian, Dutch, Danish, Czech, Yugoslavian, Greek, Russian, Finnish, Rumanian, Hungarian, Italian, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Gurkha, and even Libyan dead in that period.
Additionally, I would also point out, as I do to people who remind me that World War II started on September 1, 1939, that if you are Chinese or Japanese, it started in 1937, particularly if you were a resident of Nanking, when the Japanese army stormed into that unhappy city. So yes, I do label this "history." It's hardly finished history, like most web projects.
Your complaints are noted. I resent your sneering tone. Thank you for your interest in my web page. If you like, I will add you to my alert list for when we launch the expanded version of this page and create future entries.
The author of the above missive apologized profusely for his note and tone, and I credit him for realizing his mistake.
|41||-||And my other favorite letter-to-the-editor:
Your accounts of the El Alamein events (ww2 plus, 3 Nov 1942) are totally ill informed and misleading... b*******, for the lack of a better term.
I struggle to understand if they are an extract from some '42 propaganda, your superficial interpretation of history, or the draft for (another) cheap Hollywood script. In any case they are factually wrong.
In particular, your tales of fleeing Italian infantry contradict those of entire divisions destroyed after stiff resistance and omit to report the heroic sacrifice of units like Folgore that indeed stood firm to cover the retreat of more 'valuable' German ones.
Unfortunately history is often rewritten with the complicity of ignorance. Well done, I am only surprised you spared your readers some John Wayne-like american intervention.
May God one day put you face to face with those whose honour you so ignorantly offended.
My answer to "Max:"
Thank you for you e-mail, and your interest in my page.
I have read your e-mail and I have re-read the entry for November 3, 1942. Normally I would not answer such a vulgar screed and its gratuitous insults, but on reviewing both your content and my page, I feel obliged to answer.
Your complaint that not enough information appears on the page about the stand of the Folgore Division and other Italian outfits at the Battle of Alamein is fairly valid. However, you should note that I did say on that day that the Folgore Division was to be withdrawn last from the Alamein positions. In addition, some of my statements that denigrated the Italian forces were paraphrasings of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's messages to Rome and Berlin. That's what he reported to his bosses. They are drawn from biographies of Rommel.
In addition, my sources for the Battle of El Alamein include biographies of Field Marshal Montgomery, Barrie Pitt's magisterial "1942: the Crucible of War," the New Zealand Official History of World War II, and the Imperial War Museum's history of the battle, and MacGregor Knox's "Hitler's Italian Allies," four biographies of Mussolini, the Time-Life series volumes "Italy At War," and "The Brutal Friendship" by Professor Deakins. These are not "Hollywood scripts" or "propaganda." I have checked my page against my sources, and I stand by them.
However, I am willing to admit that I may have left out or glossed over the sacrifice of the Folgore Division and other Italian units in the Battle of El Alamein. You seem to be under the apprehension that I did so in an effort to humiliate or embarrass the Italian fighting men of World War II. Such was not the case.
You are probably unaware of the conditions under which I have written this series for the past five years. I do this on my own, without pay or financial backing, without a staff of research assistants. I have never received a cent for my work on this series, and probably never will. I have to earn a living to feed my family and take care of them as well, which takes up a great deal of my time and restricts my financial ability to support book purchases. During the last three years, I also gained my Master's Degree. I write and research this project myself, in my limited time, on limited resources.
The combination of these factors have led to a great deal of omissions. For example, I forgot to sink the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter on her way out of the Sunda Strait in February 1942. I guess she made it back to England. I also left out the vote of censure against Winston Churchill in the middle of 1942. And I once had the destroyer HMS Punjab ram the battleship HMS King George V and sink the battleship. I assure you, it was the other way around.
Researching this series, as I say, has been difficult. I have deliberately worked to stress the participation of less well-known forces in the war as this series has evolved. However, it's not easy. And I could not even get my hands on some sources until well after the battle I described was over. A good example of that might be Dieppe or the fall of Hong Kong, both written before I purchased the Canadian Army Official History on E-Bay.
If you study the series carefully, you will also notice that the entries have expanded as the war goes on. Compare my description of the German "Channel Dash" in 1942 with the invasion of French North Africa, for example. I originally did this series for a minor purpose: a weekly e-mail to entertain and educate 50 or so US Navy Sailors and 100 New Zealand military personnel and their families and civilian supporters in New Zealand for the 55th anniversary of the war. The entries were a lot thinner when I started it. The project expanded like a fungus when the USS Washington web page offered to host the series. Before I knew it, I was getting 5,000 hits a month, and e-mails like yours (only a little less vulgar and nasty) from all over the world.
When complaints about errors in fact have been brought to my attention in the past, I have made changes. For example, I rewrote the entry for June 4, 1942, when the son of a Battle of Midway veteran pointed out a number of errors in it. At first I was going to simply correct the errors, but then I decided to give the battle a full-dress rewrite, which I did. Just recently, the son of a French Navy officer who commanded the defenses at Safi during Operation Torch wrote to correct me about his father's rank. My source had him as an Army Major. He was actually a Navy Captain. Now I have Captain Deuve's career history (albeit in French) and I intend to say a little bit more about him as I go on.
I would also point out that your complaint -- in the grand scheme of World War II -- is fairly minor. The Italian Army took a beating at El Alamein. Many of its men were killed, many of its men fled, and many were taken prisoner. Whole divisions were blasted off the map by British Commonwealth firepower. If the biggest mistake in my series is that I left out the stand of the Folgore Division, then I think I've done pretty well. Only God can achieve perfection. I have simply done the best I can...with what little I've got. If that's not good enough for you, I'm sorry. If you think you can do a better job, I suggest you do so. I am not doing this for profit or personal glory.
If you had written your complaint to me -- and you have a valid point in that the Folgore Division is not getting its due -- in a less offensive, vulgar, and sneery tone, I would probably be a lot more interested in your points. I resent your distasteful tone, I resent your gratuitous sneers, and I resent your pompous cracks.
However, I am willing to overlook these slaps in an effort to maintain accuracy in my series.
If you have direct, reliable, and accurate information about the Italian Army's role and work at Alamein, you can e-mail it to me or mail it to me, and I will make appropriate revisions for the November 3 entries and other relevant entries. You can also be assured that when I cover the period from 1939 to 1941 and do my major rewrites for the existing pages, that I will add to my coverage of the Italian Army, which is needed anyway.
He didn't answer. The third try led with this:
I send this to you for the third time.
I believe this essay answers your unbelievably nasty, vulgar, and offensive screed in full.
I note that you have failed to even acknowledge receiving it.
I'll assume, therefore, that your silence is assent, you understand my points, and that I will hear no further insulting cracks from you. I offered you the opportunity to provide accurate information to eliminate the errors you perceive in your web page, and you have failed to do so. You have not stood up with intelligence and research to uphold the positions you held with vulgarity and gratuitous cracks. Obviously, you are incapable of providing the former, and lack the gall to continue the latter.
He then apologized for the offensive portion of his e-mail, as follows:
unfortunately extensive business travel and home pc replacement (painful process I assure you) got in the way of a timely reply, but... hey better late then never. Here follow a few points in reply to your note:
You define my comments vulgar: As a matter of fact I never used any vulgar language . I consider the Word "b******", which I read/hear daily on American and British media, as part of today's conversational jargon (and a quite funny expression, in my opinion).
You define my comments offensive and my cracks gratuituous: for what the latter is concerned, my intention was to give you a taste of what a stereotype is, in line with the superficial picture I feel you painted of the Italian army in WW2. Given your reaction, I think I proved that lack of context setting and generalisation can sometimes upset people.
for what the former is concerned, well... that was exactly my objective. And for this I do sincerely apologise. I found your website at the end of a frustrating evening of research (driven by personal interest in history) during which I came across an unbelievable amount of ill-informed or (very) biased versions of the El Alamein events, mostly expressing unjustified contempt for Italian troops. I reacted by replying to you (how unfortunate) in an impulsive manner.
He had some additional comments (mostly suggestions on places I could look to learn about the Italian war effort) and concluded:
I accept your intention was not to humiliate anyone, and I apologise (again!) for over-reacting. I have genuine simpathy for the conditions under which you have written your series, and I wish, on a wider perspective, you will have the opportunity to convey the lesson that, as an Italian, I have learned from those history pages: the madness of war for mere political means will never be supported by the people of a civilised nation (particularly when assets and economical conditions are those of a 'second-world' country).
Best Regards and Good Luck with your work,
I pointed out to him that I was not responsible for other peoples' web pages and their cracks about the Italian war effort, took note of his comments, and he has not answered since then.
Guess you can't please everybody.